The Ethiopian government has set out conditions for possible ceasefire talks with leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), following days of international diplomatic efforts aimed at halting intensifying hostilities.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been locked in a year-long war with fighters from the northern Tigray region who have pushed south in recent months and have not ruled out a possible march on the capital, Addis Ababa.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told reporters on Thursday that one of the conditions for possible talks – which he stressed have not been agreed to – would be for the TPLF to withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions bordering Tigray.
“In order for there to be a peaceful solution, they say it takes two to tango,” Dina said.
“There are conditions: First, stop your attacks. Secondly, leave the areas you have entered [Amhara and Afar]. Third, recognise the legitimacy of this government,” he said.
“By the way, don’t misunderstand, it’s not being said a decision has been made to enter into negotiations,” he added.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda has previously said that pulling out from Amhara and Afar before talks begin is “an absolute non-starter”. The Tigrayan forces said last week they had seized Kemise, 325km (200 miles) from Addis Ababa, but the government has accused their rivals of exaggerating their territorial gains and insists that the conflict “is not coming to the capital”.
The TPLF is demanding the end of what the United Nations describes as a de facto humanitarian blockade on Tigray, where hundreds of thousands of people are believed to be living in famine-like conditions.
No aid has gone into Tigray by road since October 18, and 364 trucks are stuck in the capital of Afar “pending authorisation from the authorities to proceed”, the UN said on Thursday in a weekly report on the humanitarian situation.
“It is estimated that 80 percent of essential medication is no longer available in Tigray while most health facilities are not functional due to damage and lack of supplies,” it said.
Tigray’s biggest hospital, Ayder Referral Hospital in the capital, Mekelle, has been forced to close its cancer treatment programme, “leaving some 500 patients without treatment”, it said.